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Environmental law is a body of law, which is a system of complex and interlocking statutes, common law, treaties, conventions, regulations and policies which seek to protect the environment which may be affected, impacted or endangered by human activities. Some environmental laws regulate the quantity and nature of impacts of human activities: for example, setting allowable levels of pollution or requiring permits for potentially harmful activities. Other environmental laws are preventive in nature and seek to assess the possible impacts before the human activities can occur.
Environmental law as a distinct system arose in the 1960s in the major industrial economies. While many countries worldwide have since accumulated impressive sets of environmental laws, their implementation has often been woeful. In recent years, environmental law has become seen as a critical means of promoting sustainable development (or "sustainability"). Policy concepts such as the precautionary principle, public participation, environmental justice, and the polluter pays principle have informed many environmental law reforms in this respect (see further Richardson and Wood, 2006). There has been considerable experimentation in the search for more effective methods of environmental control beyond traditional "command-and-control" style regulation. Eco-taxes, emission trading, voluntary standards such as ISO 14000 and negotiated agreements are some of these innovations.
The IUCN Academy of Environmental Law  is a network of some 60 law schools worldwide that specialise in the research and teaching of environmental law.